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Books and Me: The Philosophy of Service

Book Title : Philosophy Of Service

Author: Swami Ranganathananda

I came across this author by chance when I was looking up on commentaries on a specific work of Adi Sankara. The moment I read a few pages of the commentary, I realised that I had been introduced to an author whose work I definitely need to read more. Since in recent times I have been toying with the aspect of service and relationships, when I found the title ‘Philosophy of Service’ by the same author it was but natural for me to pick it up.  This book contains two lectures, delivered by the author decades ago, one was in 1968 and the other in 1977, I will be surprised if many of the people who may be reading this blog post were even born then.

When you read the book you will realise how the philosopher, teacher has so beautifully, presented both technical aspect of service and the practical applications of it, based on the then state of our country.  Though tremendous importance and references have been made to the aspect of human development, one must appreciate the fact that in the mid sixties, India had her own set of unique post independence challenges. While many of the references, proposed solutions and perspectives seem to apply only to the social development issues and policy making, a lot of the fundamental concepts drawn from Vedanta about service apply across time and situation.

Incidentally the second lecture documented in the book is based on an extempore speech delivered at a business meeting of a labour forum. I am not very surprised that a lot of policy makers and business people failed to imbibe the concepts, spirit and also did not attempt to translate it to action. For even If a small proportions of these thoughts were taken in spirit and implemented, we as a nation could be discussing, extremely different issues, challenges and opportunities today.

I particularly liked the author’s skill in referencing varied works from both eastern and western literature, thus making the reading even more interesting.  Interesting references from Swami Vivekanada’s works has catalysed the already inspired my thought to go through the complete works of Swami Vivekanada word by word. Of many references to western literature across subjects, I particularly liked the reference to Sir Julian Huxley’s ‘The evolutionary vision’ and his concept of psychosocial evolution.

It is indeed eye opening that these lectures given almost five decades ago contain such essentials that can lead to the creation of an extremely happy society. Whether you are in a for profit business , not for profit business, social institution, educational institution, a civil servant or any individual in any vocation the simple aspect of service – the philosophy behind it, the ways of practicing it and the benefits that can be enjoyed by living it is both applicable in today’s context while being of immeasurable consqueuence. In today’s fast moving and changing world this aspect of serving as a way of life requires a lot more awareness, knowledge and practice.  I hope many would benefit from reading this little book and reflecting upon it in daily life. Your investment in terms of both money and time will be returned manifold!

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